The Dance Card Gallery
A Collection of American Dance Cards for sale from
John & Rico's Drawing Room of Newport Antiques
located at 152 Spring Street, Newport Rhode Island 02840
1.401.841.5060 cell: 401.261.3980
Johann Strauss II
# 4983. A set of four rare American Dance cards from Harvard University. First is titled "Senior Spread Class of 1902" - size 3 7/8" x 5 3/4". The 1902 Senior Spread Committee included Remsen Brinckerhoff Ogilby, Richard Elbert Edwards and Frederick Indersoll Emery. Patronesses included (as noted): Mrs. William A. Bancroft, Mrs. L.B.R. Briggs, Mrs. Richard H. Dana, Mrs. Arthur Lithgow Devens, Mrs. Richard C. Divey, Mrs. Charles W. Eliot, Mrs. Woodward Emery, Mrs. F.L.Higginson, Mrs. William J. Ladd, Mrs. William Lawarence, Mrs. Thomas Motley, Mrs. M.H. Richardson, Mrs. Joseph B. Russell, Mrs. Charles S. Sargent, Mrs. N.S. Shaler, Mrs. James J. Storrow, Mrs. Barrett Wendell, Mrs. Harold Williams and Mrs. Alfred Winsor. Of the 22 dances listed in this card, the bearere had filled out all but 4. This was a very busy night for the dancer. The was a card of a gentleman as all the dances partners are ladies. The most interesting and unusual dance listed is the "Portland Fancy." Condition of this card: separated outer card. We have a duplicate of the 1902 card in about the same condition. There is a 1901 "Senior Spread Class of 1901" card in the same condition thought the pencil is missing from this card. There is also on this collection a 1904 card with the Senior Spread Committee as follows: Harold Garfield Dillingham, William Jackson Clothier and Chester Haven Robinson. Condition of this card is intact but the pencil is missing. The cover design reflects thematically art of the era with Japonisme influencing the theme. Price for the four card is: $300.00.
A little information about Dance Cards
Dance cards or "Ballspenden" which literally translates as "ball-donates" have been a part of Viennese culture for more than a hundred years. Today, especially in Vienna, Ballspenden has come to represent the party favor or dance card that a lady used to record who she would dance with at a ball.
In Vienna in the 1830's almost half the population of 400,000 attended almost 800 balls during Fasching before Lent. Those numbers of people attending balls through the years translated into the production of hundreds of thousands of dance cards for just one city alone, Vienna. With most cities in the world holding dances and balls, the numbers of dance cards produced through the years must have been in the millions. Yet today, dance cards in the marketplace are a rarity: they are fragile, often were not kept and many were lost during the destruction of wars.
By the mid-1860's, when Johann Strauss, Jr. had written "The Blue Danube Waltz", Vienna, the city of the waltz, was the center of social life for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Part of the social life was the formal "Ball" or "Fete" sponsored by the various organizations representing every aspect of daily life. Balls were sponsored by doctors, architects, mountain climbers, police agents, mens singing clubs, railroad switchmen, just to name a few. Just about any group of citizens could sponsor a ball and they did ! For many organizations, the annual Ball was the high point of the year.
Ballspenden have been around for quite a long time, certainly since the mid 18th century. Splendid examples made of precious metal and jewels survive in museums. These examples were created for the most wealthy class of the Empire.
The dance card, no matter when it was made generally consisted of a decorative case which opened to reveal a "book" that listed the various dance titles and composers with a blank line which would be filled in with the name of the person with which the lady intended to dance. Listed in the card could be from 10 and up to 20 or more dance titles. Attached somewhere to the case was a pencil with which to write a name. A decorative cord was attached to the case so that the entirety could be attached to the lady's ball gown.
Generally, the "case" that holds the card reflects the sponsor of the ball with some object depicted in miniature, especially European dance cards. The sponsoring organization would have the committee meet with the Ballspenden manufacture to decide on the design to be used for the dance card. In Vienna, most of the manufactures were located in the inner city. American dance cards were usually printed by local printers from the city where the sponsoring organization was located. Almost all of the Ballspenden in this On-line-Museum are marked with the name of the manufacturer and the address of the workshop. Many dance cards (especially those from Vienna) were designed by important people of the era such as Viennese architect Joseph Maria Olbrick who designed Secession style buildings in Austria. His design for a dance card in this On-line Museum is dated January 24, 1898 and was for the Architects Ball of Vienna.
The admission fee to Viennese Balls was higher for women than for men, to cover the cost of the ballspenden.
For some reason, probably social custom, the Hungarian and American dance cards list the sponsors not only by organization name but also by members name.
The names of composers listed on dance cards could be: Schultze, Musard, Lumbye, etc. however, usually one third of the dances would be composed by Strauss. The King of the waltz created the music that made balls flourish not just in Vienna, but all over the world. Without his wonderful compositions and his extraordinary following the ball would not have had the impact on the social life of the era.
The waltz was received with enthusiasm throughout the Empire. Budapest, being a smaller carbon copy of Vienna, followed suit with its residents sponsoring annual balls to dance the "kerango."
Eventually we will arrange the collection in chronological order. View a small image with written detail about the "card" and click on that image to view larger or additional images of the same card.
Information Guidelines about dance cards.
1. Size: generally dance cards are between 1" and 3" in size, so as not to get in the way of the lady.
2. Materials: either paper, metal (brass, nickel, white metal), wood, organic material such as shell, ivory, mother of pearl,etc., glass.
3. Dance cards served two purposes: To be used at the dance to list in order the dances of the evening and to be kept as a memento of the Ball.
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